It might seem like something out of a Portlandia sketch ("Got room in your fridge? Rent it out!"), but the person or persons renting out kittens on Craigslist Houston appear to be very real—or very good at trolling the local news media.
When a friend forwarded us a Craigslist ad offering to "rent a kitty or even a WHOLE litter" for kids parties or simply stress relief, we assumed it was a joke. After all, the ad included silly pictures of tiny kittens that were clearly stock images and besides, who rents out kittens? As one coworker put it: "What if the kids accidentally hurt the kittens?" It seemed unsafe, unwise, dangerous and—most of all—fake. But we couldn't help wondering...what if? So we emailed the poster behind the kitten ad (no phone calls before 7 p.m., the ad noted with great sincerity) and to our great surprise, he/she responded immediately.
We had more than a few questions for the kitten renter, which were gamely answered in a series of short emails, printed here verbatim:
Houstonia: I came across your Craigslist ad today and had to reach out and see if it's real. Is it? Are you? Are the kittens?
Kitten Renter: Hi, yes we are. Here is a pick of the current litter available. Please let me know if you have any questions.
(At this point, we were treated to a shot of the alleged kittens themselves. They are adorable and also frighteningly tiny. We did a reverse image search to see if the picture had been posted anywhere else; it has not.)
So, wait—how does this work? Does someone bring the kittens to your home or place of employment, you pay, you play? How much are hourly rates? Does it depend on how many kittens you book at once? Does the mama cat come too? Are the kittens old enough to be played with? It looks like they're still nursing… Are there set days/times the kittens are available? What charity is this benefitting?
Yes they are delivered as long as they are within delivery range. Mostly we focus on individual kittens or a whole litter. It has been long enough since their birth that the mom leaves them throughout the day. We keep the appointments to a minimum so the kittens can still have plenty of time with the mom. They will be fully weened at the beginning of August. They are currently about two weeks old, being gentle is necessary. They are just beginning to explore the world and can fit inside your palm. In a couple more weeks they will be ready to play all day. Appointments can be made anytime after 7pm on weeknights and anytime during the weekend. KITTEN TIME does not benefit any charities the proceeds go towards the kittens getting spayed and neutered.
Here are the rates:
For one kitten
30 min- $25
one hour- $50
For the litter of kittens
30 min- $50
one hour- $100
Is there a geographic area it's limited to? I'm assuming y'all hang out and monitor the kittens so that nothing bad happens to them, right?
That is correct. Our main area of focus is central Houston and the north Houston. That's not set in stone though, there is flexibility on the areas. Do you have any other questions that need answered?
(Worryingly, our final question was not answered.)
Two final questions: Has anyone made any appointments so far? And who am I talking to…what's your name?
We just hit the ground yesterday. There haven't been any appointments made yet but everyone is really curious about what it's all about. My name is Katie.
So there you have it, folks. We're not ones to tell you how to spend your money or what animals to pet in your free time, though $50 does seem a little steep for an hour of playtime with a kitten. As another coworker put it: "I could just go pretend to adopt a kitten for free at the SPCA."
Please note that Houstonia doesn't actually recommend or endorse any of these activities, however, though in a city with over a million strays, it's not surprising that some people would go to extreme measures to finance spaying and neutering their animals. And that we do recommend.